For both Jamie Lee (CS’08) and Hariz Baharudin (CS’15), landing a journalism job upon graduation was a childhood dream come true. Over the years, the two Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information alumni have gone on to shine in their field.
In January, Lee, a banking correspondent at The Business Times, clinched the coveted title of Journalist of the Year at the Singapore Press Holdings annual awards, while Hariz, a reporter at The New Paper, was named Young Journalist of the Year.
Jamie Lee, Banking Correspondent of The Business Times, Journalist of the Year (2018)
Lee’s foray into business journalism was mostly an accident.
When she was in her second year at WKWSCI, she applied for an internship with The Straits Times, but was offered a position with The Business Times instead.
During her internship, she worked on an article on donor fatigue, a phenomenon in which people no longer find it necessary to donate to charities. The story was challenging for Lee because she had to look into large amounts of data on donation statistics, which she was not used to doing.
Her article eventually made it to page one of the paper, a rare achievement for interns.
Though the job as a business journalism intern was gruelling, it was very satisfying for Lee.
“We get to talk to a lot of powerful people and make them trust us enough to say things that are not coached or scripted, which is not particularly easy,” said Lee.
A noteworthy story Lee had worked on was about M-Daq, a homegrown fintech company backed by e-commerce company Alibaba. The startup was media shy and initially declined interviews with the press. Lee kept contact and held off-the-record meetings with them.
After more than a year, she finally convinced the company’s management to go on record to share its story on a rice cooker big enough to cook for 50 staff members.
As it turned out, the rice cooker had helped create a sense of growing camaraderie among the staff. They began cooking lunch for one another regularly in the company’s kitchen. From purchasing the groceries to preparing meals, the staff were involved in every step.
Her story became one not just about business, but also about the people behind it.
“Whether you are interviewing the CEO or the man-on-the-street, you have to be empathetic in order to get them to open up to you”
Jamie LeeBanking Correspondent, The Business Times
Some of Lee’s other notable stories include “Singapore plays fintech evangelist on global mission" and "Oh Brother, Big Data."
“Whether you are interviewing the CEO or the man-on-the-street, you have to be empathetic in order to get them to open up to you,” Lee said.
Lee considers her time at The Nanyang Chronicle the most impactful experience of her journalistic education.
At the campus paper, she started out as a writer before moving up the ladder to become an editor for the newspaper. One of her most memorable stories there was about a peeping tom.
“We fought hard for the story,” she recalled.
While she was gathering information about the incident, Lee made a call to a representative from the university, who asked her why the newspaper would want to destroy a young man’s life.
“And I thought, what about the young girl’s life? Doesn’t it matter as well?” said Lee.
The story was run in the end and appeared on the third page of the newspaper.
“I’m glad that the team stood up for the story. It is ethical moments as such when you reason why you are even running a story,” Lee said.
Hariz Baharudin, Journalist at The New Paper, Young Journalist of the Year (2018)
It was always Hariz’s dream to become a reporter.
“I was always very inquisitive and people would say that I was ‘such a reporter’ when I was younger,” he said.
He enjoys his job for its dynamic and ever-changing nature, where no day is the same as the other.
During his time as an undergraduate, lecturers such as Hedwig Alfred, Tay Kay Chin, Nikki Draper, Thusitha De Silva, and even his peers, were just some of the many who helped shape his career, Hariz said.
One of his more memorable experiences at WKWSCI was the Going Overseas For Advanced Reporting (GO-FAR) course, which brought him and his classmates on an assignment to Sweden in 2014.
“Reporting in a foreign country was definitely challenging as it had its own set of systems, regulations and culture,” said Hariz.
There, he worked on a story on Muslims celebrating Hari Raya Haji overseas. Finding newsmakers in a foreign land was tough for Hariz, and it was by sheer luck that he managed to find the contacts of some Muslim families living in Sweden.
With the support of his peers and tutors, he managed to churn out a story that resonated with Singaporeans. The story was eventually published in The Sunday Times.
In addition to getting his story, he also celebrated the festival with his newsmakers in Sweden, and even spent a night at an Islamic centre.
“As journalists, we are in a privileged position to help start conversations that matter."
Hariz BaharudinJournalist, The New Paper
Making the transition from graduate to a rookie reporter was certainly trying as there was a lot to learn within a short span of time, he shared.
Hariz had to adapt quickly to the pace of day-to-day reporting as well as the rigour and expectations that came with being a journalist.
Now almost three years into the job, Hariz has worked on plenty of stories. One of his most memorable works include the story that landed him his award.
The story was about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s home at 38, Oxley Road. Following his passing in 2015, the fate of his home became a hot topic of national discussion.
While most media outlets were focusing on the Lee family feud, Hariz approached the story from a different angle - to cover the lives of residents who lived along Oxley Road together with the late former Prime Minister.
“As a journalist, we are in a privileged position to help start conversations that matter,” said Hariz.
“I just want to know that when I end my career, I have done something that I am happy and proud of.”